Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Jon Wright.
Starring Hannah John-Kamen, Douglas Booth, Colm Meaney.
Horror, UK/Ireland, 104 minutes, certificate 15.

Released in cinemas in the UK January 27th by Warner Bros


Over ten years after his booze-filled creature feature GRABBERS, director and co-writer John Wright returns to Ireland for UNWELCOME, a story involving a young English couple awaiting the birth of their first child moving to Ireland after a harrowing home invasion only to be faced with the prospect of facing up to a band of leprechauns over their garden wall. This is a simple premise loaded with many possibilities in how to be approached and executed and to his credit Wright tries to do something different by mixing up some sub-genres and their staples but to varying results.


The couple, Jamie and Maya, are delighted with their idyllic and pastoral surroundings after their grim tenancy in a London high-rise culminated in an attack from some anti-social thugs. The new, large house that Jamie has inherited from his deceased aunt only comes with one caveat, to leave a blood offering at the bottom of the garden every night for the “Red Caps.” This superstition is met with cynicism by the couple, but Maya soon realises there may be more to this local folklore than meets the eye when she learns more about the history of Jamie’s aunt while he struggles with his own emasculation in the face of the notorious clan he has hired to fix up his new home who resent his incomer presence.


Anyone who has seen the poster and/or trailer for UNWELCOME may be forgiven for expecting a full-on home invasion pitting man against leprechaun. Right from the off however it becomes apparent that there is a lot more at play here than your usual riff on small but deadly creatures wreaking havoc upon an unsuspecting family unit. Wright is more interested in framing his characters and story in a STRAW DOGS type framework than the expected beats that could be found in the likes of the 80’s VHS staples GREMLINS, GHOULIES or TROLL and its own notorious sequel. The fair share of the film is more devoted to the after-effects of violence induced trauma while also mixing in emasculation and deep-rooted resentment towards the English. While these are interesting angles to approach Wright couches them within a storyline that too often muddles its tone making the film neither a successful comedy or an engrossing drama before eventually settling into a horror comedy far too late.


The attempts at humour never really succeed. Lumped with the burden of delivering most of the jokey banter, Douglas Booth struggles with a judgemental character who is hard to sympathise with despite his predicament of the guilt of failing to protect his wife and unborn child. He seems more upset about the builders stealing his chocolate Hob-Nobs than the safety of his heavily pregnant wife. Colm Meaney also struggles to make anything of his cliché-ridden character of a dodgy builder and fierce father to his unruly offspring, all familiar to viewers of Derry Girls, Game of Thrones and The Young Offenders who delight in antagonising the incomers.


When the home invasion angle finally kicks off and the Red Caps make their belated appearance none of the elements have gelled successfully for the audience to fully invest themselves. The down to earth aspects of the film fail to make the groundwork for the more fantastical elements to really have any effect despite a bizarre conclusion. If only the more gonzo elements that are introduced in the final scene and the nicely designed creatures with their mischievous natures were seeded throughout more skilfully, UNWELCOME could have been a more successful melding of folk-horror and comedy horror and not the missed opportunity that limps across the finish line here.


Iain MacLeod.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans